CROP forecasters have put in estimates for the 2016-17 Australian wheat crop between 26.1 million tonnes and 26.7mt, up markedly on last year’s 25mt crop.
Even at the lower 26.1mt figure put out by the National Australia Bank the crop would rank as one of Australia’s top five on record, while the 26.7mt figure released by Rabobank would be in the top three years ever should it come it at that level.
Rabobank grain and oilseeds analyst Ben Larkin said his company’s numbers were based on an increase in yield, rather than acreage.
“We expect plantings to remain similar to last year, but we have raised our average yield to 2.09 tonnes a hectare.
At present, analysts are reporting near perfect conditions across the majority of Australia’s grain belt.
In Western Australia, agricultural meteorologist David Stephens said the wheat crop was threatening to challenge the record yields of 2003, when the overall average was 2.25 tonnes a hectare.
“As of June 27, with an average finish to the season, we predict yields of 2.15t/ha, which would rise to 2.19t/ha should the seasonal weather predictions, for slightly wetter conditions, come to pass,” Dr Stephens said.
“Similar to 2003 the rainfall has been above average in autumn, and below average in June in the southwest which has prevented too much damage from waterlogging.”
“A record could be reached if an above average August to October is received.”
Phin Ziebell, agricultural analyst with NAB, said his company’s forecast could rise with a kind spring.
“Our central case estimate for the 2016-17 Australian wheat crop is 26.1mt, based on rainfall to date and average rainfall in major cropping areas for the rest of the season,” he said.
“However, our high case estimate, based on 20pc above average winter rainfall, points to a national harvest of 27.1mt.”
Mr Larkin said the only glitch to an otherwise perfect start was a small area in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, which got off to a slow start before recent rain.
He said this meant some areas slated for winter crop would now be left fallow for a winter crop in those regions.
Elsewhere, Mr Larkin said the season to date was near ideal.
He agreed with Dr Stephens’ assessment of the NSW crop.
“Conditions in Western Australia couldn’t be better, with the majority of the state’s cropping regions recording between 100 and 300 millimetres of rain between January and May.”
Mr Larkin said most of southern New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia had also had the rain to facilitate a full planting program.